Calgary students stage walkout over sexual assault, harassment concerns

·3 min read
Students gathered outside Western Canada High School to take part in Tuesday morning's walkout. (Submitted by Shea Stuart. - image credit)
Students gathered outside Western Canada High School to take part in Tuesday morning's walkout. (Submitted by Shea Stuart. - image credit)

Chants of "hear us, protect us" by dozens of high school students could be heard outside of Central Memorial High School in southwest Calgary Tuesday morning.

Among the crowd gathered, many carried signs with slogans saying "No Means No" and "Enough is Enough."

Students at both Central Memorial and Western Canada High School in the southwest staged walkouts today because they say reports of sexual harassment and assaults by other students are being ignored.

"The silence on these issues and refusal to stand up for what is right is appalling and leaves a stain on the proud legacy these schools claim to have," said Central Memorial Grade 11 student Jade Sather. She was reading from a statement prepared by students from both schools.

Submitted by Shea Stuart.
Submitted by Shea Stuart.

The Calgary Police Service (CPS) said in a statement to CBC News later Tuesday that a female youth reported to the school resource officer at Central Memorial High School in June that she had been sexually assaulted by two male youths.

Police said that officer compiled a police report and notified the CPS child abuse unit. An investigation was conducted but its result was that no criminal charges were laid.

"Every child and youth we work with is interviewed by our team, when deemed suitable and appropriate, and given the opportunity to tell their story," said Staff Sgt. Graeme Smiley of the child abuse unit in the statement to CBC News.

"When evidence in an abuse investigation is determined to not meet the threshold for a criminal charge, this in no way negates the story the victim shared with us or how the incident made them feel, and we recognize that this outcome can be disappointing for those involved. We commend all victims who come forward to report abuse."

The Calgary Board of Education wrote in a statement that it is aware of these allegations, but that officials couldn't comment on them specifically.

"Ensuring that school environments are safe for all students is critically important to the CBE," the board said in a statement.

"The CBE has a process for working with families and students to address concerns and reports of this nature. We take these matters seriously and where required, we also support students and families to work with CPS."

Student concerns

Sather says students are fed up with school officials either downplaying or ignoring their complaints about groping, cat calling, or even more serious sexual assault allegations that have been brought forward.

"Because it makes you feel powerless and it treats people like objects and it shouldn't be a part of anything that has to do with school."

Sather says among their concerns is that when students report incidents of sexual assault, they are not followed up on appropriately, are met with disinterest or are ignored.

Sather says she wants to see the CBE acknowledge that things must change. Part of that, she believes, is seeing consent featured prominently in the CBE curriculum.

The CBE said in a statement that there are curricular outcomes related to consent in health and CALM (career and life management) courses.

"Students learning how to use their voice and identify and report concerns is important. This learning process can be complex for students and families. Schools prioritize communication with all individuals involved, and must determine the best ways to support the safety and well-being of all members of their community," the CBE said.

"Parents are important partners for supporting student well-being and are directly involved in the process for addressing reports and concerns of any nature that impact student safety, well-being and learning."

Colleen Underwood/CBC Calgary
Colleen Underwood/CBC Calgary

With files from Colleen Underwood

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